Twelve professionals from various healthcare specialties filed into the room and took their seats. Whispers settled and the conversation began: How can providers give patients an ideal experience, while managing important business processes and preventing data inaccuracies?
We spent an hour listening to thoughts from healthcare leaders at HIMSS 2022. This is a summary of the strategies they are using to make the patient experience better and easier to deliver.
Defining the patient experience
Patient experience is a team effort between patient access staff, clinical teams and billers who must all coordinate to manage expectations around treatment price, coverage benefits and payments. This coordination happens at every step of the patient journey, with front-end processes affecting downstream success.
Inaccuracies can lead to unexpected or incorrect bills, which frustrate patients, impact a provider’s bottom line and may cause switching of providers for future care.
To avoid these consequences, there are three things providers can do now to provide a better patient experience throughout their organization.
1. Put more focus on patients
Patients are at the heart of healthcare, and establishing a positive relationship begins long before the provider interaction. Providers must be conscious to not let business processes detract from the patient experience at any point of their care journey.
Patients need to feel supported and engaged starting with their first contact with an organization. This may be at the time of scheduling their appointment when eligibility is requested and verified, or when checking in for a visit and their demographic and contact information is confirmed.
Every step is an opportunity to clarify price, benefits and payment details, which many patients often have questions about. It’s best to proactively confirm and address these details early and inform patients often.
2. Accelerate the digital consumer experience
While a patient-first focus has been the center of consumerism in healthcare, a strong digital consumer experience was lacking before the pandemic. With the disruption of COVID-19 have come many advancements in making technology a more integral part of healthcare – a shift that has modernized and simplified much of the patient experience.
Providers set aside long-term plans to roll out technology, opting instead to act right away where they could in order to meet immediate patient needs during the pandemic. Progress was more important than perfection, and although there is more work to be done to improve the healthcare consumer experience, this was a giant step forward.
There are now more ways to schedule and confirm appointments than over the phone. With the right software, eligibility can be verified in real-time using fewer details than everything on an insurance card or even without an insurance card available. In many ways, providers are better able to react to the needs of patients through digital processes, meeting them where they are better than ever before.
3. Balance patient expectations with staff needs
One of the discussion participants described her organization’s goal for this year in one word: balance. Everyone on her team agrees the pandemic was an extraordinary event. Now, they are working to establish a balance between patient expectations and staff needs.
Embracing digital-first processes helps improve the patient experience, but it does not replace personal interactions or fully answer the call to ensure staff feel supported. Providers must commit to establishing a balance between how technology can make things better and the value of a human approach for both patients and team members.
Staff’s ability to complete more tasks in a shorter amount of time with technology does not eliminate the need for them to spend time explaining details and addressing concerns with patients. The time saved in work can be reallocated to create the people-first encounters patients expect.
There are some instances where technology serves better as a replacement vs. an enhancement, such as self-service patient technology for those who’d rather fill out forms or make requests online. However, it’s best to offer such processes as an option instead of a requirement, which still accounts for those patients who may prefer more traditional methods. A prime example would be a young, tech-savvy patient compared to an elder patient.
Improving the patient experience with Inovalon
There’s never been one sure-fire way to meet all patients’ expectations, and the pandemic heightened that as providers reacted to ongoing changes and new requirements. Through a focus on patients, rapid adoption of technology and finding balance between the two, many healthcare professionals have laid a strong foundation for delivering a high-quality patient experience.
In addition to hosting this focus group at HIMSS, we introduced our new product during the Market Debut session: ABILITY Registration Assurance. For more on how this solution can impact your front-end efficiencies and back-end success, visit our HIMSS Market Debut program page.
Inovalon and design®, Inovalon® are trademarks of Inovalon.